The world’s most exploitative show and me

Last night I made the mistake of watching Mark Dolan‘s The World’s Largest Family & Me. I say mistake, and I mean it: it was not happy viewing. Problem the first. There’s already a Louis Theroux, why on earth do we need someone else doing exactly the same thing, without even a twist, who looks and acts the same but is just intrinsically less likable. I’m not the first to point out the similarity, though Dolan claims to be a ‘very different performer’. Public Exposure puts it less subtly, “The major difference between Theroux and Dolan is the fact that Mark Dolan is offensive and patronizing.” Succint and to the point, I like it.

Where Louis Theroux succeeds is not only through his disarming charm and general niceness, but his ability to fearlessly ask the sorts of questions that the viewers are asking. Dolan’s problem is that he asks the most basic of questions then runs rough-shod over the conclusions. Example. Asking a Romanian immigrant to Canada whether he’d be happy for one of his 18 children to marry outside a non-Romanian, the cheery Alex answers that he wouldn’t want his daughters to marry a non-Christian. Later, the conclusion is drawn that the large family is there to propagate the Romanian community in that part of Canada. Basis for this? Absolutely none. Evidence to the contrary is ignored, and the said family’s general amenableness is twisted to fit Dolan’s point, accompanied by his trademark pained grimace as these clear dangers to society talk about how happy they are.

Back in the UK, the first family – seemingly normal – is visited. 12 nippers, with lined up welly boots and a smart, tidy, happy home. “Something tells me,” says Dolan in narrator mode, “that the joy of having kids is not the only reason for the size of this family,” as the camera pans the various Biblical texts and cross-stitch samplers hanging from the walls. Are the family planning to take over the world because they’re not wearing the suggested matching football kits? When the revolution comes, will Lincolnshire be protected by an army of Bible-wielding Crusaders riding shining BMXs and sharing their pizza with the populace? Good grief.

So no conclusions drawn here, no actual insights of any variety at all, just a bucket load of prejudice and a freakshow dressed as liberal-approved anthropology. Look at the funny religious people! Look how this one family amongst the millions of religious families in the world has a large family! What are the odds?! Look at my conclusions, which I made up first! 

Watch the video here, if you wish.

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